Interstitial what?

The Antidote
The Antidote

There are a couple of books by Oliver Burkeman that I became acquainted with this month—yes, I do tend to find authors I really like and read everything they’ve written: Help!, an interesting search for the best aspects of self-help, and The Antidote, where Burkeman renounces positive thinking in a droll search for happiness.

They were both interesting reads, however in Help! I came across the term ‘interstitial time’ coined by blogger, Merlin Mann. Now, I’m always on the lookout for ways to improve our writing opportunities, adding them to my list of possible solutions for time-poor clients. Or, in some cases, to parry some of the devilishly clever excuses some will come up with not to write when they can—and should.

Burkeman’s point is that it would indeed be marvellous to have large chunks of time devoted to writing in our idyllic lakeside cabin, although I’ve found there are certain realities here which shouldn’t go unappreciated (see my Lonesome Ghost, or near-death-by isolation blog here), and to wallow in some of the writing rituals we hear some renowned authors indulge in: starting at the right time, lucky pen stationed just so, faithful dog positioned by the hearth, inspirational music played at the optimum level for, well, inspiration, I guess.

The writer's view
The writer’s view

However, in our often rat-racy existence we are beset by less than inspirational small chunks of time: sitting in doctors’ surgeries, travelling by public transport, waiting at airports, or contemplating the kids’ music teacher’s car park wall for an hour in the piddling rain. What do we do? Check everything we can on our smart phones or tablets, read a book, or stare meaninglessly at some point in space until our eyes grow heavy and close?

Or, can we use these times to write, make notes, and formulate ideas— anything that will stimulate the progress of our book? Try it! There’s an edgy feel to using this ‘stolen’ time. And, more importantly, there’s a lack of expectation—and therefore pressure—to make anything worthwhile come of it. After all, it’s merely a bit of interstitial time. It can also become extremely habit-forming, and that’s not a bad thing, is it?

What do you do when you aren’t doing?

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